Wisconsin Sick Leave Law

Eligible Employees

There is no Wisconsin sick leave law requiring employers to give permanent employees sick leave benefits, whether paid or unpaid.

That said, the Wisconsin Family and Medical Leave Act assure eligible employees up to 14 days per calendar year. The Department of Workforce Development is responsible for enforcing this benefit.

Employees can use it to manage a serious health condition that prevents them from reporting to work. They can also use it to tend to a parent, child, or spouse with a serious health condition.

Pregnant employees also have six additional weeks of leave for childbirth. Those who wish to adopt are also entitled to the same benefit.

To qualify for the Wisconsin Family Medical Leave Act, an employee must meet the following criteria:

  • The employee has worked for the employer for 52 consecutive weeks or more
  • The employee has worked for at least 1000 hours in the preceding 52-week period

The Federal Family and Medical Leave Act also guarantees covered employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave within the 12-month period, and it is the US Department of Labor that administers it.

In case an employee meets the requirements for both benefits, they will run concurrently. That means the leave used will be counted under both federal and state law.

However, whichever has more favorable protection terms for the employee will apply. For instance, if the Wisconsin sick leave law extends beyond the federal leave, the Wisconsin FMLA will be enforced on the remaining leave.

Covered Employers

Wisconsin’s Family Medical Leave Act applies to both public employers and private employers. They are covered if they have at least 50 permanent employees for the past six to 12 months of operation.

On the other hand, employers with fewer than 50 workers are not required to provide sick leave benefits, but they can if they want to. Having generous leave provisions is an excellent way to attract top talents, so there is no law preventing them from doing it.

That said, companies with more than 25 but fewer than 50 employees must post a notice that describes their sick leave policy. They must be able to update this policy whenever there are changes and give their employees proper notice.

Sick Leave Accrual

Under the Wisconsin Family Medical Leave Act, an employee can use an accrued leave instead of a sick leave. It applies whether the leave provided by the employer is paid or not. However, the decision is up to the salaried employee.

As for the federal Family Medical Leave Act, the employee and the employer can substitute paid leave. Still, they can only do so in some cases.

For most state employees, unused sick leave can accrue at a rate of five hours every two weeks. These hours will accumulate from year to year until retirement when they will be used to pay for health insurance premiums.

Permitted Uses

The Wisconsin FMLA-covered leave is available to eligible employees, but they must meet the following conditions for qualifying purposes:

  • The employee needs time away from the worksite to recover from a health condition. 
  • The employee has to care for a child, parent, or spouse with a health condition.
  • The employee has to spend time with a newborn or a new child after adoption or foster care placement.

Pregnant employees should note that the federal Family and Medical Leave Act may grant additional weeks of leave. It also covers qualified emergencies involving a child, spouse, or parent in active duty.

The term “serious health condition” applies to the following situations:

  • The employee is experiencing a disabling physical or mental condition, injury, or impairment.
  • The health condition requires inpatient care in hospitals, nursing homes, or hospices.
  • The health condition requires ongoing outpatient care from a health care provider.

The federal version has similar requirements for purposes of defining the term.

Employer Requirements

Employers must give their employees two weeks of leave to attend to their medical conditions or family member’s. Additionally, they must provide six more weeks for childbirth or the adoption of a child from foster care.

The employee may take these leaves in blocks or sporadically to meet intermittent leave requirements.

On top of all these, the employer must continue providing the employee’s health insurance during the period of coverage. Moreover, it should have the same conditions before the leave.

For instance, if the company is paying for the employee premium, it must still do so while the employee is on leave.

Once the employees are well enough, they should be able to return to the same position if it is still vacant. If not, the company must put them in a position of equivalent compensation, benefits, work hours, and employment contract terms.

In the event that an employee returns earlier than expected, the employer must reinstate them within a reasonable time.

So while there is no Wisconsin sick leave law, the Family and Medical Leave Act is enough to protect employee welfare.

Employee Notice of Use Requirements

On the flip side, a system must also be in place to protect the employer’s interest, ensuring no employee wrongly takes advantage of their benefits or privileges. It will help provide business continuity and ensure equity for all stakeholders.

If possible, an employee must give advance notice of any medical treatment or medical test. The employee should also submit medical certification to support the validity of the request.

There is no specific provision for a certificate showing the employee’s fitness to return to work, at least under the Wisconsin FMLA.

During the leave, the employee should follow all the healthcare provider’s instructions. Doing this ensures swift recovery on the part of the employee and minimal disruption for the employer.

Employees requesting medical leave for childbirth or adoption should also provide reasonable advance notice based on the expected date of occurrence.

These terms and conditions are designed to give the employer enough time to prepare what is needed. They also minimize the impact on the relevant business processes that can affect the company’s quality of service and income.

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